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Inside the Olympics: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Politics, the Scandals and the Glory of the Games

by Dick Pound

Readers looking for the definitive exposé of Olympic greed, avarice, and scandal will be disappointed by former Canadian Olympic bigwig Dick Pound’s book. Inside the Olympics is a starched memoir with only fleeting anecdotes that give colour to a movement that claims to be about universal human values, but instead has become a rich, secretive business accountable to nobody but itself.

A lawyer as well as chancellor of McGill University and now head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Pound is, to be sure, an Olympic insider. He competed as a swimmer at the Summer Games in Rome in 1960 and served on the International Olympic Committee for about 25 years, but here he’s long on Olympic platitudes and short on details about the culture that bred the Salt Lake City bidding scandal in 1998.

He shows plenty of indignation at the corrupt behaviour of some of his colleagues, but is unwilling or unable to shine much light on the culture of bidding that helped the bribes, junkets, favours, and gifts of art and jewellery – to name a few unofficial perks – spin out of control. Pound is known for his jocular, straight-talking style, but it’s precisely that candour that’s mostly missing in this book. Instead, Pound occasionally comes across as supercilious and hypocritical. He pontificates about the scourge of fixed judging in figure skating and the injustice of hopped-up athletes who win medals, but fails to connect those scandals to the same morally bankrupt, win-at-all-costs attitudes that had infected the bidding process leading up to the Salt Lake scandal.

The book does act as a brief history of the modern Olympics movement and covers boycotts, terrorism, politics, and war as they pertain to the Games. The most interesting chapters are on the sponsorship, marketing, and television rights negotiations that have turned the Games into a multi-billion-dollar behemoth. Not coincidentally, these were Pound’s forté.


Reviewer: Stephen Knight

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Canada


Price: $34.99

Page Count: 288 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-470-83454-4

Released: June

Issue Date: 2004-7

Categories: Memoir & Biography